It’s winter again in the Southern Hemisphere. The sun’s rays have become muted, the chill has reunited us with our woolly jumpers, our homes have become a cosy refuge (for those of us fortunate enough to have a roof over our heads), and we begin to feel urgent cravings for hot food and rich puddings.
More significantly, however, is the opportunity for inward reflection and the particular medicine this season has to offer us. What does winter mean for us, and how do we get the most out of this period?
Spiritually speaking… It is the yin (feminine) season, a time for receptivity, stillness, rest, surrender, darkness, gestation, restoration. It is governed by the element of water, calling us to go with the flow of the lessons winter wants to teach us.
“Like roots and seeds planted deep in the dark soil, we hibernate, we gestate, we allow the magic in the underground to potentiate our seeds. We learn the lessons of water and fluidity, we work with our fears to embody more of our own self, we take up space in our bodies in places we have not been before.”
Here are a few ideas for winter rituals and disciplines – especially potent to practice during the winter solstice, coming up again on 21 June – to support us on our winter journey of gentle self-discovery.
Ayurveda practice: balancing kapha dosha
In Ayurveda, the traditional Hindu system of medicine, winter is the season to focus on balancing kapha dosha – one of each of three energies believed to circulate in the body. Kapha represents the water element, and the winter season is associated with kapha qualities such as heavy, slow, steady, damp and cold.
There are several ways to balance the kapha dosha. It is beneficial to stick to a daily practice or set of disciplines, because of the sluggish tendencies of this element. Go to bed early and wake up at sunrise to ensure you don’t oversleep. When you wake up, scrape your tongue to stimulate digestion and elimination, then oil pull with organic coconut oil for 10 to 20 minutes. Following that, drink a glass of warm water with lemon, a sprinkling of Himalayan salt and grated ginger (also helps to detoxify the kidneys and liver, as well as fire up the digestive system). These practices help to avoid bloating and lethargy.
Another suggestion is incorporating a daily yoga practice into your routine; mornings work well. Try a few rounds of surya namaskara, i.e. sun salutations sequence to energise (here’s a step by step guide), followed by grounding, standing postures such as warrior 2 and the triangle pose. Backbends are invigorating and help remedy the lethargy that often comes with this season. Pranayama exercises are also tremendously beneficial, here is a guide to a few you might like to try.
Lastly, balancing kapha dosha involves not overeating, as well as eliminating – as far as possible – mucous forming foods like dairy, eggs, wheat and meat.
Embrace the divine feminine in you
This goes for both males and female – we all hold the divine feminine inside of us! As winter is the season of yin, it’s the perfect time for self-nurture and connecting with the feminine within. Spend time in nature (dress warm), set goals for yourself but don’t try to accomplish everything at once and give yourself plenty of time to rest (take afternoon naps if you can!), cleanse your space to clear stagnant energy and to symbolise letting go of what no longer serves you, drink medicinal herbal teas to warm you up from the inside out, use essential oils like rose geranium and ylang ylang, burn incense resins such as myrrh which aids in awakening the feminine archetype, take baths (where water is in abundance), nourish your skin with natural oils and creams, and set aside some time each day to journal to help you access your own inner wisdom and medicine.
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